Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu – Abstract

Linguistic diversity, neoliberalism, and the quest for social justice for minoritized languages in (South) Africa
Linguistic diversity has been a thorny issue for language policy and planning in postcolonial settings, since it is seen as a threat to national unity and the overall welfare of the nation-states. Accordingly, policymakers have privileged inherited colonial languages over minoritized indigenous languages by excluding the latter from virtually all higher domains, including education, the economy, etc. Recent scholarship has sought to remedy this situation in light of theoretical developments such as Engaged Language Policy (Davis, 2014), Linguistic Entrepreneurship (De Costa, Park & Wee, 2016), and related frameworks. The former calls on scholars to work with rather than for minority language communities by giving them space to participate in critiquing and transforming dominant policies, especially the neoliberal commodification of language. In contrast, the latter – linguistic entrepreneurship - draws attention to why learners invest in learning such high status languages as English, noting that they align with ‘the moral imperative to strategically exploit language-related resources for enhancing one’s worth in the world’ (p. 696). What is missing from the referenced scholarly tradition is any discussion of the potential commodity value of minoritized languages vis-à-vis former colonial languages in the local linguistic market place. Using South Africa as a case study, this talk offers a constructive review of extant literature on social justice for minoritized languages. In particular, it explores ways in which these languages can achieve social justice in the diverse linguistic landscape of which they are members, where neoliberalism and its manifestation, linguistic entrepreneurship, have increasingly become the norm.